Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) held a press conference yesterday to give updates on the state’s efforts to mitigate the increasing number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in New Jersey.
An additional 3,517 COVID-19 cases and 18 deaths were reported in New Jersey yesterday, bringing the state’s total to 266,986 cases and 14,694 deaths. There were also 1,801 deaths that were reported to potentially be linked to COVID-19.
As of yesterday, there were a total of 1,827 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 in New Jersey. Murphy said this was the first day since June 4th that COVID-19 hospitalizations have been this high.
Additionally, there were 360 patients in critical or intensive care and 117 patients on ventilators.
“(COVID-19) is not done with us, unfortunately not by a long shot,” Murphy said. “Unless we all recommit to the common-sense measures that got us past the first horrendous months of this pandemic, we are in for a long, dark winter before a vaccine becomes broadly available.”
Murphy said that over the past week, the New Jersey Department of Health (DOH) has confirmed 15 new COVID-19 outbreaks in New Jersey schools, resulting in 46 additional infections. Since Aug. 1, there have been 51 outbreaks associated with in-school transmission, leading to a total of 192 COVID-19 cases.
While they expected cases to result from schools operating in-person, Murphy said these numbers are lower than anticipated and show that the steps taken to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 have been working.
Murphy also announced the creation of an interstate compact, which prohibits interstate youth hockey games and tournaments among seven surrounding states. In addition to New Jersey, these states include Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.
“If I had to predict, this group will grow and I hope it grows soon,” he said. “We know that there’s been transmission linked to youth hockey team activities, and with numbers rising across our region, this is an important step to further mitigate community spread and protect public health.”
The Daily Targum previously reported that as of yesterday, all restaurants, bars, clubs, lounges and casinos must close indoor dining by 10 p.m. and may not reopen until 5 a.m. the following day. Outdoor dining, takeout, delivery services and casino gaming operations are exempt from this restriction, and barside seating will be prohibited until further notice.
Murphy said that congregating in these locations is a bigger issue in some places than others, and therefore signed an executive order allowing municipalities and counties the option to regulate the operating hours of non-essential businesses after 8 p.m.
“As we have been noting, our approach to this second wave is to act surgically within hot spot areas, and that means giving local officials the ability to take actions to prevent localized hot spots from becoming (COVID-19) wildfires,” he said.
When it comes to other municipal or county actions, such as restrictions on essential businesses, complete business closures or restrictions on capacity limitations that do not align with statewide mandates, Murphy said steps like these are not permitted and will be invalidated.
“By working alongside and through local health and public safety officials, we believe we can have a more effective and efficient means of attacking this virus in the second wave,” he said.
When it comes to statewide testing, Murphy said New Jersey is one of the first states selected by the U.S. DOH and Human Services to receive CUE Health’s molecular rapid test.
He said the test is shown to produce results with 99 percent accuracy in approximately 20 minutes. The New Jersey DOH is developing a plan to distribute this testing system to the state’s most vulnerable locations, including long-term care facilities and veterans' homes, he said.